Certainly the boundaries of decency and compassion have shifted in these last 50 or more years. Along with sexual immorality, the boundaries of what is good and decent behaviour have shifted right out there. We live in an age where there are no holds it seems on what is right and wrong in society. Films depict all sorts of indecent acts between people of opposite genders and same genders. Things I would rather not speak about, but must, if I am to draw a line over which I do not want nor desire to cross.
Now, what is this? An artist, that is what he calls himself, steals the sacred remains of people from a crematorium where unspeakable crimes were committed. Firstly, I call that thievery. He is no artist. He is a common thief and a very brazen one at that. Secondly, he has no respect for himself and any other member of the human race, to do such a thing.
Then, he uses those ashes, those remains of what were once living breathing human beings and creates what he calls a piece of art, a painting. I have utter contempt for such an individual. He is no artist. He is just a common criminal. There have been many common criminals who aspire to be artists, poets or writers. Admittedly, there are also many individuals who began their artistic or writing career in jails or ended up in jails because what they wrote pricked the conscience of rulers or some unrelated matter landed them in an institution of incarceration. I am not talking about the Oscar Wildes or Alexander Solzhenitsyns or Voltaires or even the Cenvantes. These people were artists without a doubt and indeed deserved their accolades. There are some jail birds like Jean Genet or William Burroughs who are lauded by some as literary giants par excellence, but I consider then magnificent con artists and not really of true literary worth. They are simply swine wielding the instruments of artists and dribbling out rubbish that is seen by some as art for whatever reason. Somewhat like the story of the emperor's clothes where two very clever con men convince a naked emperor that he is clothed in the finest of raiment. Interesting that such things are passed off as art, but then can art be seen as a subjective medium? What is one person's art is another's drivel or dabble and vice versa.
To use the ashes of any human being, from my perspective is actually disgusting. If someone took feces and painted a portrait of a person, some today would call that art. Let's hope there would be clothes pegs in a basket by the portrait or free air fresheners for the viewers. I would call it regressive infantile behaviour, because it is what you expect of a baby exploring his excretions and they do grow out of it thankfully. When a grown human being plays with feces, whether it is his own or somebody else’s, that is disturbing behaviour and I would be ringing a good psychiatrist right away and recommending some behaviour modification therapy. But to call it art, that suspends belief and is crazy, to my way of thinking.
Using ashes of dead victims of the Holocaust is totally disrespectful. It is worst. It is a belittlement of the pain and the tragedy of the holocaust and to turn around and call it 'art'? That the gallery director did not at first, 'see there is anything wrong with using the ashes of holocaust victims' shows us just how far our boundaries of decency and what is right have been stretched. It was only because of public outrage that the exhibit was closed.
Some things need to be set down in black and white. There is art and there is art and some things are definitely not art. This is one of them.
Art or a piece of art is supposed to make a statement that is relevant to the time in which it was created. All this says about a would be artist who uses the ashes from a crematorium where Jewish victims were burned to cinders is that he or she has a very flawed and stunted perception of what the holocaust or the Shoah means in terms of the twenty century history of human kind.
I would not go into the fields of Rwanda and dig up the bones of victims of genocide and create a statue of bones and then call it art. Nor would I go to the fields of Pol Pot and dig up a skull and clean it up and polish it and then use it as a container or decoration on my writing desk. I would find that macabre and disgusting. But do you know that people did do that in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? They called themselves archaeologists. It beggars belief but then perhaps I am just too sensitive to that sort of thing.
The ancient Britons appeared to love a decent goblet made out of the skulls of friends and family. That somehow does not settle well with me. I feel a bit uncomfortable and squeamish about the mere thought. But then I am a tad conservative and uncomfortable about a lot of things in this world. There are quite a lot of things I would not do and others would. There you have it.
I conclude that art is not a matter of subjective opinion. A piece of artwork has to make some statement that is relevant to the time in which it was created. A piece of writing has to make a statement for a particular culture, group or society in which it was created. It must say something that does not offend or belittle a group of people or culture or religion. I consider John Lennon’s statement many years ago that the Beatles were more popular than JC as a relevant statement for the times because it was not meant to belittle Christianity but to make a factual statement relevant to the society that Lennon and the Beatles lived in and played music for. It said something yet many were offended, because they wanted to deny the reality.
If Lennon and Mc Carthy had wanted to create a religion and called it the Church of Beatle, I am sure they would have created a lasting institution of Beatle and it would have been well established today. John Lennon could be the Messiah for this group. He has all the required elements of martyrdom I guess and it just takes some groups to get together and expect him to rise from the dead and to create an industry around the artifacts and to flog to the unsuspecting public. There are people who would be gullible enough to believe it just like they believe the end of the world is going to be the twenty first of December.
Ok folks only one more Shabbes left. Enjoy while you can and good shabbes. Talk to you next shabbes same time and same place only if we are not in the middle of a gigantic earthquake or tsunami. Then you will find me heading to the hills atop Mount Baw Baw. I may still have some reception, G-D willing. :-)